Busek Company Selected for NASA Funding to Develop Spacecraft Advanced Propulsion

Busek Company will develop advanced CubeSat propulsion and Hall Effect thrusters (HETs) with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the Massachusetts-based company for five Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 awards. The contracts are worth up to $125,000 apiece over 13 months.

The three proposals focused on CubeSats and small satellites include:

  • a low impulse bit electrospray thruster control system;
  • a compact high performance plasma propulsion system (CHPPPS); and,
  • an iodine-compatible photocathode for RF ion thrusters.

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An Update on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program

Two Launches in One Week: On Aug. 14, 2017, a Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the photo on the left. It was carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the image on the right, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug.18, 2017 placing in orbit NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph)

Report to Congressional Committees

Weapon Systems Annual Assessment
Knowledge Gaps Pose Risks to Sustaining Recent Positive Trends

Government Accountability Office
April 2018
Full Report (PDF)

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program

Technology Maturity, Design Stability, and Production Readiness

All but one (14 of 15) of ULA’s launch vehicle variants—which are based on payload fairing size and number of strap-on solid rocket boosters used—and two variants of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 have flown at least once, demonstrating technology maturity. For design stability and production readiness, the program assesses launch vehicles using Aerospace Corporation’s “3/7 reliability rule.” Once a variant is launched successfully three times, its design can be considered stable and mature. Similarly, if a variant is successfully launched seven times, both the design and production process can be considered stable and mature.

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Tyvak Selected for NASA SBIR Phase 1 Award

Tyvak Nano-Satellite System plans to develop a low-cost, high-performing avionics system for use in small launch vehicles and maneuvering upper stage carriers with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency selected the Tyvak Extended Mission PlatfOrm (TEMPO) for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 program. The contract is worth up to $125,000  over 13 months.

“The system provides autonomous guidance and control and stage/deployment sequencing,” the proposal summary stated. “It also uses customizable subsystem packages to enable carrier vehicles to provide services currently unavailable to small satellites, such as delivery of multiple satellites to multiple orbital planes, long-duration carrier vehicle operations, delayed deployment of spare satellites until they are needed to replenish a constellation, hub-and-spoke rendezvous and proximity, and communication relay.”

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Space Policy Directive-2: Full Text

Credit: Matt Wade

Space Policy Directive-2, Streamlining Regulations
on Commercial Use of Space

MEMORANDUM FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT
THE SECRETARY OF STATE
THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY
THE SECRETARY OF LABOR
THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR HOMELAND SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF

SUBJECT: Streamlining Regulations on Commercial Use of Space

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of the executive branch to be prudent and responsible when spending taxpayer funds, and to recognize how government actions, including Federal regulations, affect private resources. It is therefore important that regulations adopted and enforced by the executive branch promote economic growth; minimize uncertainty for taxpayers, investors, and private industry; protect national security, public-safety, and foreign policy interests; and encourage American leadership in space commerce.

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A Closer Look at Astra Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

At some point in the next few weeks, the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska will host its first commercial rocket launch. Officials at the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the spaceport, are hoping the suborbital test flight is the first of many commercial flights from the underused facility.

While officials have not identified the California company conducting the launch, a perusal of the corporation’s board minutes indicate it is almost certainly a small Bay Area startup named Astra Space.

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Made in Space Selected for 2 NASA SBIR Awards

NASA has selected two proposals from Made in Space focused on producing advanced crystals and high-strength components for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program. Each two-year Phase II is worth up to $750,000.

The Industrial Crystallization Facility (ICF) would produce “nonlinear optical single crystals and other relatively large material formulations, such as bulk single-crystal thin films and high temperature optical fiber,” according to the proposal.

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Tethers Unlimited’s MakerSat Would Allow Small Satellites to Grow on Orbit

Tethers Unlimited has been selected to receive up to $750,000 in NASA funding to demonstration technology that would allow small satellites to grow after they are launched into orbit.

The company’s MakerSat project was one of 128 proposals selected by NASA for phase II funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The contracts last two years.

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Sierra Nevada Corporation’s STPSat-5 Satellite Completes Ground Compatibility Testing

STPSat-5 satellite in SNC’s Louisville, CO facility. (Credit: SNC)

SPARKS, Nev. — January 24, 2018 (SNC PR) –  Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Test Program Mission 5 (STPSat-5) satellite moved another step closer to launch, successfully completing its Factory Compatibility Test (FCT) with NASA’s Near-Earth Network and the NASA Ames Multi-Mission Operations Center.

STPSat-5 hosts five Department of Defense (DoD) experiments to test emerging space technologies and is expected to launch in 2018.  SNC completed mechanical integration in September, stacking three functional modules (propulsion, bus and payload deck) to form the complete space vehicle.

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Potomac Institute Releases Make America Great Again in Space Report

WASHINGTON (Potomac Institute PR) — The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is pleased to present a new report, Make America Great Again in Space. The report recommends bold new policy to ensure US leadership in space in the realms of commercial enterprise, defense, and intelligence.

Driving American Enterprise and National Security in Space

Make America Great Again in Space examines the essential role of the US Government in laying the foundations for enterprise and economic development, by investing in infrastructure and R&D. It outlines the history of the space industry of today and advocates for continued investment in infrastructure and research needed to support commercial development of space.

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Zuma Blame Game Begins

In the wake of the apparently unsuccessful launch of the secret Zuma payload, there is still some confusion about what exactly happened and who is to blame.

The top secret satellite for an unidentified government agency is believed to have burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere after failing to separate from the second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster.

However, SpaceX officials say that the Falcon 9 booster performed exactly as planned, so the company is not responsible for any failure that might have occurred.

That would appear to point the finger at Northrop Grumman, which provided the satellite and the adapter that connected it to booster. The company had declined to comment, saying it doesn’t comment on classified missions.

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Bigelow Aerospace Had Pentagon Contract to Investigate UFOs

Robert Bigelow and his space company worked with the Department of Defense to investigate UFOs, according to a story in The New York Times.

The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.

Working with Mr. Bigelow’s Las Vegas-based company, the program produced documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift.

Contracts obtained by The Times show a congressional appropriation of just under $22 million beginning in late 2008 through 2011. The money was used for management of the program, research and assessments of the threat posed by the objects.

The funding went to Mr. Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, which hired subcontractors and solicited research for the program.

Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena. Researchers also studied people who said they had experienced physical effects from encounters with the objects and examined them for any physiological changes. In addition, researchers spoke to military service members who had reported sightings of strange aircraft.

A Tale of 2 Launch Ranges: The Best & Worst of Times

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the MUOS-4 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week.

The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.

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VOX Space Wins Defense Contract

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Orbit has received a Department of Defense (DOD) launch contract for its LauncherOne booster, the company announced this week.

“Their Space Test Program will fly some technology development payloads on our rocket as early as January 2019,” the company announced on Twitter.

LauncherOne will be air-launched from a modified Boeing 747 airliner. The first flight test is expected to occur in 2018.

The contract, which came through the VOX Space subsidiary that handles government work, came through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx).

“We provide non-dilutive capital in the form of pilot contracts for commercial innovation that solves Dept. of Defense (DoD) problems. And we do so quickly, usually in under 90 days,” according to DIUx’s website. “Pilot contracts can include hardware, software, or unique services. More importantly, after a successful pilot, the company involved and any DoD entity can easily enter into follow-on contracts, just as fast.”

DIUx has also provided capital to two other space companies: Capella Space, a satellite company that uses synthetic aperture radar to provide Earth imagery that is based on Palo Alto, Calif.; and Orbital Insight, which provides geospatial data analytics that is based in Moutain View, Calif.

XCOR Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Lynx suborbital space plane (Credit: XCOR)

MOJAVE, Calif. – Troubled XCOR Aerospace, a pioneer in reusable rocket engine technology, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in federal court on Wednesday, according to court documents.

The filing will lead to the liquidation of the 18-year old company, whose engine technology was designed to power the two-person Lynx suborbital space plane XCOR was building. The vehicle, which was designed to take off and land on a runway, was only partially completed before most work on it stopped last year.

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GAO Reports on Efforts to Maintain Solid-Rocket Motor Industrial Base

The second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System’s booster is seen, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory, Utah. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Solid Rocket Motors:
DOD and Industry Are Addressing Challenges to Minimize Supply Concerns

Government Accountability Office
October 2017
GAO-18-45 [Full Report]

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD relies on a multi-tiered supply chain to provide SRMs, the propulsion systems behind the various missile systems that provide defense capabilities to meet U.S. national security objectives. The SRM industrial base includes manufacturers that turn to an extensive network of suppliers that provide the raw materials, components, and subsystems needed to build SRMs. DOD is responsible for developing a strategy for the national industrial base that ensures that defense contractors and their suppliers are capable of providing the goods and services needed to achieve national security objectives.

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